Thursday, May 26, 2011

March In May, Pie Ride, Book on Massage and Sugars in Grasses

This post has miscellaneous subjects - our miserable weather, finally a Pie ride, a new book (to me) on equine massage, and sugars in pasture grasses.

Today, after the several inches of rain we had yesterday and last night, the wind is howling, temperatures are in the mid 40sF with wind chills in the 30s and it's still drizzling and raining on and off, and temperatures are supposed to fall into the 30s tonight.  The horses are out in either their winter blankets - no one has any winter coat left - or rain sheets with polar fleece coolers underneath.  There is standing water everywhere and the arena is a swamp.  No riding for Drift and Dawn today - this will be their third day off, which I'm sure they're enjoying but I'd like to get back to work.

But I did get to ride my sweet good Pie yesterday.  In the morning while he was inside, I hand walked him for about 10 minutes in the barn aisle - the different surfaces, including the concrete barn aisle, are good for his feet right now.  He's walking very well and moving around his paddock during turnout, including doing some trotting and cantering.  In the afternoon, after the rain let up, I saddled him up and we rode for about 15 minutes at the walk, up and down various trail segments close to the barn, including one with a slight incline.  He's moving very nicely and his back had lots of swing.  He was very alert and clearly brimming with energy, but never once shook his head or attempted to jig.  Don't know if we'll get in a ride today considering the weather, but it was sure good to be back on him again after two weeks.

My excellent vet/chiropractor recommended a book to me - it was originally published in 1985 - Beating Muscle Injuries For Horses, by Jack Meagher, who worked for the U.S. Three Day Event Team and U.S. Driving Event Team at the Olympics and World Championships.  The book is about using deep massage - sports therapy - to prevent and help heal muscle strains and injuries in horses.  It has numerous good, clear explanations and drawings and looks like it's going to be a very useful book.  The book is also spiral bound, which means you can lay it flat if you're using it in the barn.  The main focus is preventative - to notice the beginnings of a strain - tightness and soreness - and try to improve things before they get worse.  I enjoy using my hands on my horses, and they seem to enjoy it as well, and this book should help me do a better job.

One of our local horse rescues (Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society - beware of graphic photos on their home page) has a printed newsletter, and the most recent issue had an interesting article on sugars in pasture grasses.  It doesn't seem to have an electronic version, so I can't link to it, but the author was Heather Smith Thomas.  The point of the article is the variability of sugars in pasture grasses, depending on the climate, the type of grass (cool season grasses tend to have more sugars than warm season grasses), and the immediate weather (rainfall, temperature and sun/shade) conditions.  Basically, pasture grass metabolism involves the creation of sugars during the day, which are then used during the night to fuel growth of the grass.  The result of this is that typically, grasses are lowest in sugars in the early morning and highest in sugars in the late afternoon, and a sunny day amplifies this effect.  Under conditions of stress - a cool night, frost, excessive heat or drought, for example, which can slow grass growth during the night - grasses can also be high in sugars in the morning.

There is a wide spectrum of tolerance to sugars in pasture grasses in horses - some horses cannot have any grass without experiencing effects (and these effects, including heat in the feet and/or stronger digital pulses, often show up first in the rear feet), and others can be out on rich pastures with no adverse effects, and everywhere in between.  For example, Maisie had bad reactions to our cool-season grasses in  two successive years, but now that she's in Tennessee and grazing mostly warm-season grasses, she's doing fine.  Pie had an adverse reaction this year but may be able to do some grazing later in the year when the cool season grasses are not so vigorous.  Charisma, who is a Morgan and is insulin resistant, can have no grass - not even hand grazing.  In our climate, spring and fall are the most dangerous times for sensitive horses.  If you're interested in reading more on this topic, visit


  1. It must have been so good to get back on Pie. Glad he's feeling better.

    I've also been reading a book on massages: Equine Massage- A Practical Guide by Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt. Once I get the hang of it the horses should start feeling better.

    Good info on the grasses.

  2. "Beating Muscle Injuries" is one of the best books I've ever seen on horse massage. Each technique is clearly explained and illustrated. And, specific problems are addressed along with methods to help solve them. Glad you found a copy.

    Three cheers for a sound, happy Pie. Now all you need is some good weather and footing.

  3. Thanks for the info on the grasses. I was just about to go look that up, but got distracted reading your blog. Nice how that worked out!


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